Share this article

print logo

Jane Lehman: Christmas village is filled with memories

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I begin decorating for Christmas. It’s the weekend I set up my Christmas village.

The pieces are larger than others I have seen, and their Styrofoam storage boxes take up significant shelf space in the basement. Yes, they are kitschy.

In theory, they should have increased in value after purchase, but they didn’t. They use up electrical outlets, extension cords and most of our available flat surfaces. Some of the Styrofoam storage is really tight, and it’s challenging to unpack and repack them without breaking them.

But I love my village, the little scenes that I scatter around my house. The buildings remind me of the small town in rural northern New York where I grew up, the town I still consider “home.”

Most of the pieces were chosen to represent something that has meaning to our family. Over years, I collected pieces that I love, and arrange them in groupings that I have designed.

My favorite scene, the dairy farm, is on a corner table in my living room. I carefully place the white barn with its weather vane, the substantial farmhouse with the inviting front porch, the Holstein cows and the tractor pulling a wagon full of people. My husband and I both grew up on small dairy farms where we milked Holsteins. Our family barn was red, not white; the tractor was green, not red, but the black and white cows look like home.

One of the scenes is a ski lodge, complete with skiers and skaters. One of the skiers is lying on his back in the snow, obviously having had difficulties making it down the hill! That scene is for my son, who discovered skiing in the fifth grade, chose a college in the middle of numerous ski resorts and still lives in that skiing destination.

Another scene reminds me of rural Erie or Niagara county, built to look like a family business. A greenhouse is located near a smallish house. A truck parked in the yard is loaded with Christmas trees. People (customers?) are carrying trees away from the greenhouse. Maybe the trees are for sale behind or inside the greenhouse?

My stepmom gave me the library for Christmas one year. She said my village should absolutely have a library because she knew how important the library was to our family. When I position it on the piano, I remember that my sisters and I promised each other that some day we would live where the library was open every single day. I have achieved that goal, as the North Tonawanda library is open seven days a week most of the year.

The first piece I acquired was a small creche. I soon added a church, and then I needed some choir members, because what is Christmas without choral music? The courthouse in my hometown looks exactly like the village courthouse. The Victorian houses could have been copied from the surrounding streets.

A few years ago, I considered skipping this tradition. My husband patiently hauls the boxes up and down stairs and installs the lights, but it’s a chore. My son is only home for a few days at Christmas, and I didn’t think he would care.

Then in a phone conversation, my son casually mentioned that he was looking forward to coming home and seeing the village. So I continue the tradition. And as I write this, I am looking at the skating rink and kids playing hockey, smiling at my memories.